Work From Home (WFH):  Transitioning
From Staffing Strategy to Work Strategy

By Michele Rowan, Work From Home Alliance

WFH is nothing new for contact center organizations. But WFH at 80-100% is VERY new for most. There’s a big difference between having 20-30% of your population home and having 80-100% of your population home — for the long haul. WFH has transformed from a staffing strategy to a WORKING strategy.

I am sharing these considerations and insights with you based on many very recent discussions I’ve had with contact center colleagues over the past several weeks:

  1. Organizing Where People Should Work — Employee preferences on where to work carry more weight now than they ever have before and should not be taken lightly, or you could be coming up short when you are launching your hiring campaigns.   Some market leaders are surveying their employees about where they want to work and how often, and where they believe they will be most productive (i.e., the person with four roommates and no dedicated office space vs. the person with a quiet space to themselves all day long). Next, a set of Personas is developed to best reflect and group these preferences, and added are the components of roles/responsibilities and tenure.
  2. Potential Work Locations and Uses — Home offices or large contact center locations are being repurposed to serve dual roles now. One is for a segment of the population to work in office for a number of days per week, and the second is for social connectivity and gatherings. Businesses are social organizations, so using the office space for all types of in-person exchanges produces a volume of culture-connect and engagement opportunities. The in-person activities may range from client visits to group lunch and learns, to focus groups, to volunteer activities, to family inclusive events, like Halloween Trick or Treat. Satellite offices are another great option for companies that hire in specific markets and want to do some of their new hire training in person, and enable in-person working for teams/portion of their schedules.   In-office large screen video conferencing brings added connection to those that join meetings remotely, and IT in this case can be local for equipment trades/repairs. Shared offices (think We Work) bring people together, absent of any physical footprint in a market. And finally pop-up offices are an appealing solution for companies going in to a new market for the first time, needing to do hiring and training.
  3. Workflows, Split Shifts — Now is the time put together a task force and review all of your current work flows.   Your work environment may likely now expand from synchronous work exclusively, and there could be some redundancies. For example, you may find you don’t need as many traditional meetings, as things like status updates can transition from a weekly in-person, all-hands-on-deck meeting to asynchronous updates.
    You may find that some tasks can be performed by home-based team members during off-peak hours who work split shifts – that could generate efficiencies for your on-peak employees. There is tremendous opportunity to improve your efficiencies AND best support your new working environment with a thorough business process review. Surveying your employees for interest in split shifts is also worth the investment. There are many people with families and other competing priorities that will choose split shifts, now that they are home-based.
  4. Hiring and WFH Office Setup Guidelines — Pre-pandemic guidelines that you established for WFH are probably out of date. Pandemic flexing and the many one-off accommodations you made were a much-needed reaction to get you through the emergency. There is probably a new middle ground you want to establish for many components of WFH. Let’s take for example your former policy about no child care during working hours, or must have a dedicated office with a door. Should your policy actually be closer to “demonstrated ability to conduct live customer exchanges without distraction?”

Up to this point, most organizations have been purely firefighting in terms of supporting WFH. It seems like now is the right time to make the investment in truly understanding what our employees prefer in terms of work location and schedules, aligning that with sensible business logic around roles and tenure, and doing the thorough review on the work flows. This will carry you a long way in the transition from WFH staffing strategy to a Work Strategy. As organizations adapt to the new normal, it is also important to consider maintaining a safe and clean work environment, which can include services such as pest control toledo to ensure the health and safety of employees.

Michele Rowan is President of Work From Home Alliance.  Michele has worked in the Remote Work arena exclusively for the past decade. She has collaborated with 150+ companies in the design, expansion, and continuous improvement of their WFH programs. Industry experience includes financial services, health care, travel, insurance, retail, government, telecom/tech support, BPO, and non-for-profit sectors. In addition to custom consulting, Michele also holds public workshops and group sessions for meaningful exchanges on WFH best practices.

Previously Michele held the role of VP of Performance Management for Hilton Reservation Worldwide, where she led the design and implementation of both their US and European WFH programs.

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